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#OutstandingBrands23: Talking brands—brand communications from the research lab

If you have a condom brand to advertise, should you do it on Akumaa Mama Zimbi’s ‘Odo ahomaso’ which discusses relationships and sex on Adom TV, or on GTV’s Talking Point, a current affairs show? A bigger question underlies this, one that keeps brand communicators anxious about every campaign they launch – ‘how do we get consumers to pay attention?’

Fact is, winning the consumer attention war gets trickier every day. Daily, there is pressure to find innovative ways of connecting with consumers whose changing media habits make it difficult to decide where and how to meet with them. Then, there is advertising clutter – every brand is talking and fighting to catch attention – which is making consumers tired of advertisements. As if that is not enough, brand communicators must deal with the fact that their targets are becoming savvier to persuasion attempts, and actively take steps to avoid advertising exposure. Top all these with the rising cost of advertising in a troubled economy – with different hair cut styles! – in which brands are reducing advertising budgets, and you know this is a tough battle.

Not surprisingly, brand communicators are always on the lookout for strategies to increase the odds of catching and retaining consumer attention. There are several tricks in the book – brand activations, celebrity endorsements, shocking ads and nudity, guilting consumers into patronage, etc. Of these, research suggests that the less intrusive ones are better at cutting through consumers’ attention barriers by catching them off-guard. An important example of such less intrusive strategies that we know works well is brand placement or product placement. This is where things that identify or suggest your brand are inserted into media content. Remember the bottle of water the presenter of your favourite TV show has sitting in front of him/her? That is an example of product placement. In movies, music videos, news and talk shows – just mention the media vehicle, and there is likely to be some placement going on.

If it is that common, then, perhaps, you need to make yours effective than that of your competitor. This 2022 US-based research by Davit Davtyan and Armen Tashchian should be helpful in this regard. The study titled: ‘Thematic Congruency in the Context of Brand Placements: Tests of Memory and Attitude Measures’ explores how the extent to which agreement between the product being placed is related or relevant to the content of the programme affects consumer responses. In other words, does it matter whether there is congruence/agreement between your brand and the programme on which you are doing the placement?

Let’s come back to Odo ahomaso and Talking Point. Where would you place your condom brand? According to the research published in the Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising, it matters a lot which of the two you decide on.

First, the research shows that incongruent brand placements are great when your purpose is to get consumers to remember your brand. What this means is that consumers are better able to remember your brand when its essence contrasts somewhat with the programme on which it is placed. So going by our example, your condom brand is better placed on Talking Point – assuming it will be accepted there – than Odo ahomaso if you seek brand recognition and recall. My guess: the contrast between your brand and the programme’s essence shocks people into taking notice. So, beyond considering whether your consumers watch a given show, you should also think about whether you stand to gain from this contrast effect. That is, if you seek to enhance memory of your brand.

However, if your purpose is to get people to think positively about your brand, then this contrast effect is not what you seek. Rather, you should aim to place your brand on programmes with which it shares meaningfulness. According to the study, congruent placements are more conducive to creating positive brand attitudes. So, if you seek more than memory, and indeed, if you seek positive attitudes toward your brand – the ones that actually translate into purchases – then go for congruence. Place your brand on programmes that it can be seen to be related to. The logic is quite easy to understand. It appears that the congruence activates familiarity, which makes it easy to accept the brand and its promise. Thus, for purposes of creating positive brand attitudes, the condom brand should go to Odo ahomaso, a financial services brand should go on a business news show, and a dawadawa brand should go on a cooking show. Hopefully, this gets you a spot in the consumers’ minds in a manner that favours your brand.

The author is a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana, Department of Communication Studies (ayeboah-banin@ug.edu.gh)  

PS: The full copy of the research explained in this article is accessible here, and may be subject to subscription fees.

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